She did it! Anky van Grunsven, on her first outing with Salinero since their victorious Olympic freestyle in Athens last summer, swept aside all opposition to win her hometown qualifier at Indoor Brabant.
The 'queen of Den Bosch' finished nearly four per cent of her nearest challenger, compatriot and pupil Edward Gal with Lingh.
Germany's Isabell Werth built on Antony's superb Neumunster victory as she produced a super test on Satchmo to take third place. The former titleholder has now moved up to fourth place in the standings shoring up her Las Vegas hopes.
Indoor Brabant provided a dramatic indicator of the top sport expected at the 2005 FEI World Cup Final. Judge at 'C' Frances Verbeek said: " It a great standard and so exciting to judge - two and a half hours seemed more like 10 minutes. Anky and Salinero looked far more relaxed in the freestyle than they had in the grand prix. She is brilliant at keeping her nerve so well as Salinero was a bit tense in the first class, but apart from the first pirouette it was a great test."
Lingh made a few small mistakes, but as Mrs Verbeek reported, this was another combination to make the most of their freestyle. "In comparison to the grand prix, Lingh went with lots of energy and power." Edward Gal now lies in equal fifth place in the standings with Britain's Carl Hester on 60 points.
Isabell Werth's Satchmo also overcame grand prix tension to shine in the freestyle. Frances Verbeek said: "She did a super job, we could all see she enjoyed her ride, and Satchmo really showed the best he can at this stage."
With just one qualifier to go and a wealth of talent vying for those eight Western European League tickets to Las Vegas, there is all to play for in Dusseldorf (March 31 - April 3). Germany's Hubertus Schmidt and Sweden's Jan Brink could still make a final US-bound leap into the top eight, but the rest of the pack at the top of the leader board could only improve their points by discarding previous scores, as only four competitions will count per rider overall.
by Bernadette Faurie
Image copyrighted: Astrid Appels
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2004-2005 World Cup Finals